NBA Free Agents 2014: Latest Rumors Surrounding Top Stars on the Market

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJune 30, 2014

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 6: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks warms up on the court before the game against the Miami Heat on April 6, 2014 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Here are a few, but certainly not all, of the NBA free agents that have a possibility of changing uniforms in the coming weeks—LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Kyle Lowry, Chandler Parsons and Dwyane Wade.

Get your popcorn ready.

Of course, it goes without saying that most of those star players could—or in some cases, will—opt to re-sign with their current teams and not make a change of scenery. But as we found out in the summer of 2010, anything can happen. 

With the July 1 start of free agency nearly here, let's break down the latest rumors as the free-agent circus gets underway.


Suns Planning Mega-Swoop for LeBron, Carmelo

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

A year ago, the Phoenix Suns were building for a tank-happy 2013-14 season and a long rebuilding process. Now, they're swinging for the fences. 

The Suns are one of many teams aiming to pair up LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the two jackpots of the offseason, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski

A team trying to get both LeBron and 'Melo? That's not really news—seemingly every team luring James in has been linked to that possibility. But Wojnarowski explains what sets the Suns apart from any other team in the sweepstakes:

Salary-cap structures make it prohibitive for teams elsewhere to fit these two stars together without completely gutting a roster, but Phoenix's general manager Ryan McDonough has constructed a far different reality to sell them in potential meetings next week, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Suns have $33.5 million in salary-cap space and could shed the next $10 million needed to sign James and Anthony to maximum contracts without unloading the young core of guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and center Miles Plumlee that pushed the franchise to 48 victories in the Western Conference last season.

OK, that changes things—if only a little.

Obviously, either player could be enticed into a pay cut if it meant a better shot at a championship. But two of the three best players in the world deserve—and will want—max money. And with Wojnarowski reporting James is seeking a maximum extension with the Heat, the best chance at snatching him from Miami is to at least match that.

TORONTO, CANADA - April 11: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks attempts a free throw against the Toronto Raptors on April 11, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
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Plus, the Suns made no doubt with their play on the court last season that young guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic are both high-level starters. If they can retain the two of them and bring in James and Anthony on max deals, they might be forced to listen.

Phoenix is still Phoenix, and in all likelihood, the franchise will be building for the future with a heap of young talent and future draft picks. Plus, it's unclear how interested, if at all, the two stars would be in joining the Suns. But with the assets available, why not go all in? 


"Big Three" Return, Cap-Clearing Efforts in Works

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Half a dozen, maybe more, teams remain obsessed with the prospect of bringing in the King. But if his actions are any indication, James isn't exploring anything other than staying put where he is.

James met with fellow Heat stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh shortly after he opted out and with his fellow teammates still opted in. While there was no indication at first as to how those talks went, it was reported Sunday by ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne that the trio are now discussing new contracts with each other to free up more cap space. 

Per Windhorst and Shelburne:

The talks between the three players is the strongest indication yet that James plans to re-sign with the Heat after he becomes a free agent on Tuesday. Unlike in 2010 when all three took nearly identical contracts, the discussions this time have included the possibility that James would draw the highest salary among the three, sources said.

James, 29, has never been the single highest-paid player on his team in his 11-year NBA career.

Wow, that last part is just insane—but I digress.

Certainly the Heat aren't in an easy situation trying to cram their contracts even tighter to afford the inevitable upgrades needed, but they're taking it on the right way. Simply put, Wade and Bosh just aren't worth the money that James is—or even close. And with their impacts diminishing at times while James' impact continues to grow, balancing out the pay scale will allow Pat Riley to do what he needs to in free agency.

It wasn't long ago that Miami's recipe for success led them to two straight titles, and that part might make major changes difficult to accept. But if they're truly unsure of why the extra money is needed, they have an embarrassing five-game NBA Finals defeat just weeks ago to remind them.

James has every option available to him once July 1 hits, and his Heat teammates are wise to give the team the funds they need to keep the world's best player in South Beach.


Pau Gasol May Stay With Lakers After All

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Free agent Pau Gasol won two titles in L.A. with the Lakers but has seen his name in trade talks for the better part of the last five years. When his contract expired at the end of last season, it seemed like a separation was inevitable.

It likely won't be figured out one way or another until James and Anthony make their decisions, but Gasol hasn't given up on a Lakers return, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

While free-agent forward Pau Gasol grew tired of the persistent trade rumors that followed him for the better part of the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he would give strong consideration to re-signing with the team, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Gasol has strong ties to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who has advocated for his return, and a deep affinity for Los Angeles and the franchise he won two NBA titles with.

Per Shelburne, the teams expected to pursue Gasol in free agency are the Bulls, Mavericks, Rockets and Warriors along with the Knicks—the last of which was reported by ESPN's Marc Stein. With many, if not all, of those teams eyeing the top prizes on the market, Gasol may have to play the waiting game.

There are more questions than answers right now in Laker-land. Luring in both James and Anthony remains a pipe dream as reported by ESPN's Chris Broussard, and with aging veteran Kobe Bryant assuming nearly $25 million per year, there's no telling if L.A. will return to championship-contender status before Bryant's retirement.

For the first time in years, Gasol has control of where his future lies in the NBA after years of having that controlled—in dramatic fashion—by the Lakers front office. Don't expect him to immediately jump back into a marriage with L.A. now that the ball is in his court.


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